By Renee Reeves
BEAVERTON—Candace Walker sensed frustration in her son Caleb every time he attempted to communicate. She had no clue how to get him to talk. He grunted and pointed to indicate what he needed. She was at the end of her rope and scared. Tri-County Early Intervention program was the answer.
Candace learned of the program through her pediatrician and made the call.
“I wish I had known sooner about this program—when he was 1 instead of when he turned 2. I would have used them from the start,” she said.
“We work with babies from birth to 3 years old who have developmental delays or a diagnosis that may cause a developmental delay. We want them to be comfortable in their natural environment, so we go to them. It’s a very family-driven program,” said Pam Dupree, Tri-County Early Intervention program coordinator.
At age 3, the child transitions to the school system, as Caleb has done. The program works with the school system to make it a smooth transition.
The program is at no cost to families who are also provided the necessary tools to help their children with their development.
Each child is offered a physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist to help their development.
In order to qualify for these services, the baby must have a qualifying diagnosis or at least a 25 percent delay in their development.
“If you have a child or grandchild you suspect is not doing things at the time they should be doing them—not walking, not rolling over, not making eye contact, for example—if you have any doubts, just call. We check a lot of kids that test okay and don’t need our services. But, it eases the parent’s mind to know,” explained Lesia Cox, Tri-County Early Intervention program special instructor.
“I think the program is wonderful. Some people may think it puts a label on your child but it’s nothing like that. It helps your child get ahead,” added Candace.
Candace said she watched the sessions with Caleb and was given instructions on what to do until the next visit. It was a learning experience for her too. Other caretakers can also participate and contribute to the child’s continued development.
“There were times I’d get discouraged but you have to hang in there because what they’re doing actually works,” said Candace.
It’s a precious moment when a baby first says “mommy” or “daddy”. Candace had to wait a little longer than most, which made it even more special.
Caleb, who has come a such long way and continues to progress every day, is one of the reasons to celebrate “Early Intervention Week”.
During this week, the seven districts of Alabama’s Early Intervention System (AEIS) have planned several special events to celebrate the vital role early intervention plays in the success of children with disabilities or developmental delays.
“We are excited to promote the importance of the first three years of life and the impact of services and supports to Alabama’s babies and families,” said Betsy Prince, statewide AEIS coordinator.
“Quality early intervention services can change the outcomes for our young children with developmental delays.”
Studies indicate that 85 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years of life and that investing in early childhood programs increases the effectiveness of public schools, develops better educated workers, and reduces crime.
As part of the commemoration, Prince said that each AEIS district will zero in on local resources, day care facilities and Public Health offices to increase awareness of the benefits of early intervention.
Each district will also host a “Family Day” on Friday, April 21, where families will write letters to legislators to share their personal stories of the impact Early Intervention has had on their lives.
Alabama’s Early Intervention System is a program of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the state agency whose mission is to enable Alabama’s children and adults with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential.
Parents can call the Tri-County Early Intervention program to learn if this service could benefit their infant or toddler at 205-487-8687.
See included list of activities your child should be able to do at different age levels.